This Humble Cut of Beef Makes for the Most Wow-worthy Date Night Dinner

Here’s how to pull off a succulent steak dinner for two without breaking the bank.

BBQ sliced skirt beef meat steak on a wooden cutting board. Dark wooden background. Top view. Copy space
Photo: Vladimir Mironov

When it comes to planning a fancy, at-home steak dinner, the first cuts of beef that come to most people's minds are probably New York strips, ribeyes, and filets. You know, the good stuff — i.e. the expensive stuff. These are the cuts that are rich, marbled, and melt in your mouth on the first bite. However, what many home cooks don't realize is that making a mouthwatering, luxurious steak dinner really doesn't require the priciest cut from the butcher. Behold, skirt steak.

I love cooking skirt steak for a myriad of reasons — it's budget-friendly, it's extremely forgiving (read: you can't screw this one up), and it benefits wonderfully from a simple, flavor-packed marinade. But before we get too ahead of ourselves here, let's back up – first, what is skirt steak? Well, this lean, thin, long cut of beef is from the diaphragm muscles of the cow. This means that it's not a super fatty cut (like ribeyes or filets), and it has tough fibers and silver skin (connective tissue).

Prepping Skirt Steak

Raw skirt steak on parchment paper on wood
Annabelle Breakey

Because this is a tougher cut, it's best to marinate skirt steak before cooking it. This will help to tenderize the protein and it will allow you to customize the flavors of the steak. Before marinating the steak, you should trim away any excess fat or silver skin (or ask your butcher to do so). It's best to marinate the steak for at least 30 minutes but no longer than 24 hours. So, if you'd prefer to get your steak into the marinade the night before your big date night, it's one less thing you'll need to do leading up to the grand finale.

When it comes to preparing your marinade, let your heart run free. Personally, I prefer to whip everything up in a food processor or high speed blender because it's quick and I don't have to chop anything. Make the marinade with a handful of fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, basil, dill, and/or chives), a splash of something acidic (fresh lemon or lime juice, red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar), alliums (shallot, scallions, garlic, or onion), and a neutral cooking oil. I also like to add something subtly sweet (like a spoonful of honey, brown sugar, or maple syrup) to balance out the acidity. It's also not a bad idea to toss in something spicy, like a jalapenos or a serrano, if you enjoy a touch of heat.

Get creative and have fun using your favorite flavor-boosting ingredients. For example – you could use rice wine vinegar, toasted sesame oil, sriracha, soy sauce, ginger and garlic for a vibrant, umami-rich marinade. There are no wrong answers, people. Before adding the steak, give your marinade a taste – it should be flavorful. If it's lacking a punch, add a bit more acid. You only have one chance to flavor the steak from the inside out; a dull marinade will give you a boring steak, and a boring steak will result in an unsuccessful date night. Boo!

I prefer to hold off on adding salt and black pepper to my marinade, because I salt and pepper each side of the steak right before cooking, but you can add a pinch of each at the marination stage if you want. Once the marinade is prepared, you'll want to rub it all over the steak, ultimately keeping both together in a sealed zip-top bag or a covered baking dish so the steak can rest in the flavor-packed liquid. You can opt to reserve half of the marinade before adding your raw meat and use it as a sauce for serving. If you can remember, flip the steak(s) in the marinade halfway through so that it soaks in evenly. Finally, make sure that you remove the steaks from the fridge two hours before you plan to cook them, allowing them to come to room temperature.

How To Cook Skirt Steak

Tuscan Skirt Steak with Salsa Verde
Photo by Allrecipes Magazine.

Now, the fun part. Cooking steak can be quite intimidating (how do I know if it's done or not?), but because skirt steak is so thin, it cooks up pretty quickly and as I mentioned before, it's forgiving. You have a relatively large window to achieve a medium-rare to medium cook. The easiest way to cook skirt steak is to hit it with powerful heat, so preheat a grill, grill pan, or cast iron pan over high heat. There's no need to oil the pan because your marinade has already oiled the steaks for you (this should also help to prevent oil in the pan from aggressively smoking and setting off your smoke alarm).

Remove the steak from the marinade, letting any excess marinade drip off. Generously salt and pepper your steak on both sides, then lay the skirt steak down on your hot pan. Let the steak cook, undisturbed, until you've achieved a golden-brown sear. Flip the steak and repeat on the other side. For a medium-rare cook, the steak should feel slightly soft (rare) at the thickest part of the steak when poked. All in all, you're looking at cooking the steak 2-4 minutes per side.

Skirt Steak Recipes to Try:

Remove the steak to a baking sheet lined with a cooling rack and let it rest for half the amount of time that it was cooked. So, if the steak cooked in 8 minutes total, let it rest for at least 4 minutes. After the steak has rested, transfer your meat to a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut the steak into slices against the grain. What does that mean? Look for the natural lines running through the meat and then cut perpendicular to those lines.

The interior of the thinner parts of the steak will likely be a darker brown color whereas the thicker parts of the steak should have a lovely pink hue. That, my friends, is a medium-rare skirt steak; it's a sure-fire winner. Serve your steak with any marinade that you reserved and maybe some potatoes and a veggie?

One of the most important qualities of skirt steak is that it also makes for some mean leftovers. There is no better cut of beef for steak and eggs than a few slices of skirt, so don't forget to have a few corn tortillas, a couple eggs, an avocado, and some hot sauce on hand for the next morning…

Date night is important and all, but also, what's for breakfast tomorrow, right?


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